Friday, August 15, 2003

Deputy sheriff accused of theft

Charged with taking pay for drug searches

The Associated Press

HAZARD, Ky. - A Perry County sheriff's deputy was arrested after a grand jury accused him of illegally taking payments for searches by the department's drug dog.

Deputy Sheriff Frank Smith was placed on administrative unpaid leave by the sheriff after his arrest Wednesday. Smith was charged with four counts of theft by deception, one felony and three misdemeanors.

Smith's arrest was the latest development in various investigations into law enforcement agencies in the eastern Kentucky county.

Sheriff Pat Wooton said the previous sheriff's administration is being investigated by Kentucky State Police and the state attorney general's office. Smith was a deputy under the previous sheriff, Les Burgett, and under Wooton until he was placed on unpaid leave.

Besides the sheriff's department, the Perry County jail and the Hazard police department are being investigated, but the cases are not directly related, said Jim Huggins, director of the state attorney general's public corruption unit.

"If you are looking for a common bond to me it boils down to greed," said Charlie Hammonds, an assistant to Hazard Mayor Bill Gorman.

"But I don't think these people know each other. People do these things, and sometimes they get caught."

Smith is accused of wrongfully charging the Letcher County school district for drug searches performed by Perry County's drug dog during 2002, Wooton said.

According to Wooton, Smith told the school district that he personally owned the drug dog, and Smith received several payments for the dog's services. The dog was owned at the time by the Perry County Sheriff's Department, Wooton said.

"Deputy Smith then took those checks and deposited them into his personal bank account," Wooton said in a news release. "Payroll records indicate that Deputy Smith claimed to be at work with the Perry County Sheriff's Department at the same time he was being paid to conduct drug searches in Letcher County."

Wooton said that Burgett, the former sheriff, had not given Smith permission to put the payments in his personal account.

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